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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/24/17

Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.'s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind

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longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner."-- H.L. Mencken

Let's not mince words.

Jeff Sessions, the nation's top law enforcement official, would not recognize the Constitution if he ran right smack into it.

Whether the head of the Trump Administration's Justice Department enjoys being the architect of a police state or is just painfully, criminally clueless, Sessions has done a great job thus far of sidestepping the Constitution at every turn.

Most recently, under the guise of "fighting crime," Sessions gave police the green light to rob, pilfer, steal, thieve, swipe, purloin, filch and liberate American taxpayers of even more of their hard-earned valuables (especially if it happens to be significant amounts of cash) using any means, fair or foul.

In this case, the foul method favored by Sessions & Co. is civil asset forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to "seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets--all without so much as charging you with a crime."

Under a federal equitable sharing program, police turn asset forfeiture cases over to federal agents who process seizures and then return 80% of the proceeds to the police. (In Michigan, police actually get to keep up to 100% of forfeited property.)

This incentive-driven excuse for stealing from the citizenry is more accurately referred to as "policing for profit" or "theft by cop."

Despite the fact that 80 percent of these asset forfeiture cases result in no charge against the property owner, challenging these "takings" in court can cost the owner more than the value of the confiscated property itself. As a result, most property owners either give up the fight or chalk the confiscation up to government corruption, leaving the police and other government officials to reap the benefits.

And boy, do they reap the benefits.

Police agencies have used their ill-gotten gains "to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear," reports The Washington Post. "They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles."

Incredibly, these asset forfeiture scams have become so profitable for the government that, according to The Washington Post, "in 2014, law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did."

In 2015, the federal government seized nearly $2.6 billion worth of airplanes, houses, cash, jewelry, cars and other items under the guise of civil asset forfeiture.

According to USA Today, "Anecdotal evidence suggests that allowing departments to keep forfeiture proceeds may tempt them to use the funds unwisely. For example, consider a 2015 scandal in Romulus, Michigan, where police officers used funds forfeited from illicit drug and prostitution stings to pay for ... illicit drugs and prostitutes."

Memo to the rest of my fellow indentured servants who are living through this dark era of government corruption, incompetence and general ineptitude: this is not how justice in America is supposed to work.

We are now ruled by a government so consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population that they are completely unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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